New York Power Authority votes 'No' at Host Communities Standing Committee meeting
By Joshua Maloni
The Host Communities Standing Committee could not reach consensus Wednesday on the Town of Lewiston's request for $165,000 to help fund Artpark & Company's interactive children and family festivals and programming. The New York Power Authority cast the lone "No" vote, thus making the required unanimous approval impossible.
Artpark & Company will reappear April 15, at which time it can receive funding with a majority "Yes" vote. The applicant needs five members in favor; it received six affirmative votes this week.
Carol Sampson, representing NYPA, declined explanation, and said the Power Authority would submit the required letter of explanation.
Artpark & Company Executive Director Sonia Kozlova Clark said she was not surprised NYPA voted against her project, as the utility has a history of voting against such requests. She said she attended the meeting, "hoping to get the information out. I was hoping to call their attention to the very basis of Greenway. ... I think I found a very specific paragraph that really describes our direct connection with it, which is the celebration aspect."
Artpark has tentatively scheduled an expansion of the Fairy House Festival, a new program titled "Earthsong, Storytelling from the Tuscarora Residents," a percussion garden, a "living laboratory," a theatrical presentation of "Hansel and Gretel," and an outdoor dance carnival with Baila Brazil. (Click HERE to DOWNLOAD the full proposal.) The total cost is around $300,000.
Without the Host Communities Standing Committee funding, Clark said, "We cannot go through with majority of it. ... We'll just have to scrap it."
"It's pretty important," she said.
In presenting Artpark's projects, Clark quoted the Greenway executive summary, reading, in part, "Projects that support education and interpretation are encouraged, as are events and activities that help build social interaction and shared experiences."
"This is part of what Greenway is," she said.
"The purpose of this program that we're going to do this year is, really, to share the magic, the power, the challenges of the riverway, of Greenway, and of the site that we are all part of," Clark explained.
Beyond the educational value of Artpark's programming, she said, "What the projects like that do ... if they're done on the right level, we promote the site, essentially. Who else does that?"
"The advertising goes out to newspapers, the bigger the projects are, that can make this festival as large as it can go," Clark added. "Then we can advertise in Toronto. Then we can advertise beyond Rochester. We can go beyond our 50-mile radius and really tell people about what it is that we have to deliver."
Lewiston's grant writer, Bernie Rotella, said, "I know that we've talked about programming in the past, and how does this fit into Greenway. ... The economic impact that comes into the town, and to the village, is substantial. There's tens of thousands of people that come to Artpark that experience a multitude of programming. And what happens? They come down, they stay, they eat, they go to the river."
"We've got people coming in from all over to make this a destination location, and most of these people that come see the Niagara River," he added.
Rotella explained the requested money "is not gap funding. This is a new project that she's doing. It's not part of the Town (of Lewiston) budget."
"The impact of tourism and the amount of dollars coming into the village and into the town, I think, really warrants another look at this project," he added.
Attorney Angelo Massaro, representing the City of Niagara Falls School District, said, "It's the same issue of programming that we had before."
He added, "The concept is good. But how do we get guidelines ... as far as the programming, because we're opening up a new area now, and we're going to get an awful lot of requests for programming?"
Clark responded by stressing, "It says specifically projects that support education and interpretation are encouraged, as are events and activities that help build social interaction and shared experiences."
Attorney R. Thomas Burgasser, representing Niagara County, said, "I appreciate you stating the one objective, or the one principle there, but you have to bear in mind that there's about 20, between the principles and that, that you're supposed to be abiding by. Plus our protocols. ...
"I think it's a very good project. But, we've had this discussion last time Lewiston brought this, and the time before, and you're bringing it again anyway."
Massaro asked committee counsel Stanley Widger Jr. "Is programming that is targeted to increase the economic benefit, increase tourism along the river - the Greenway - is that eligible under our documents?"
"Yes," Widger replied.
That the funding is not part of the town's budget, or replacing money the town would be responsible for, he said, "In my mind, that distinguishes it from what has occurred in the past, or what the concern was in the past."
Widger added, "Going back to Mr. Massaro's question, the provisions of the 2005 relicensing settlement agreement (with NYPA) itself would certainly appear to be broad enough to include activity of this nature."
The Host Communities Standing Committee is responsible for administering and allocating the Greenway recreation/tourism fund consisting of $3 million provided annually by NYPA to support the construction and/or rehabilitation of parks, recreation and related facilities for the purpose of redefining the Niagara riverfront, promoting tourism, enhancing the environment, and advancing the economic revitalization of the Niagara River Greenway within Niagara County.
Burgasser said it was good Artpark was not seeking to replace line items in its present budget. He suggested Artpark should have some lasting work resulting from the funding, or, at the very least, signage or information on other portions of the Greenway area.
In terms of the committee funding events, Rotella said, "I think, as we look at projects like this, nobody should come for a fireworks project, or a one-night thing. ... When you look at what Artpark is, it's more of a seasonal. We're talking months of economic impact."
He said Artpark brings people to Lewiston who find and explore its history.
Clark said committee backing could open the door for larger National Endowment for the Arts grants.
The Greenway Commission did not take action on Artpark's proposal at a meeting Tuesday, as members, in years past, approved similar requests from the venue.